This week’s prompt is one that I’ve seen done in various ways. The idea isn’t one of my own, but one that I’ve adapted for workshops and now for the blog. The basic idea in most versions is essentially the same.
1. Pick up a book, any book that you have in your home. A book of poetry would be great, but not required.
2. Turn to page 35.
3. Scan the page (don’t read carefully) and jot down any ten words that catch your eye. Single words—not phrases or lines.
4. Use all ten words in a poem, and don’t delete any.
5. After you’ve completed a draft of your poem, read it through to find a phrase or word that you’d like to use as your title.
1. You may find it helpful to begin by making a list of ways in which your ten words are related or have some connection. Another way to begin might be to free write while keeping your list of words close.
2. Let the poem take you where it wants to go. In other words, using ten words that you haven’t come up with yourself isn’t how most poems begin. For this one, you’ll have no idea of subject or content. Let your subject develop organically.
3. Just begin writing and see how the ten words you chose direct your thoughts.
4. You’ll want to read and re-read your drafts carefully to remove anything superfluous. Remember, though, to keep your original ten words.
5. You may use any of your ten words more than once if you wish.
This example is one I wrote many years ago, several months after a trip to England. I pulled words (italicized below) from a guidebook to jumpstart the poem, a version of which appeared in my book Chosen Ghosts (Muse-Pie press, 2001).
This is the way the hours go.
The long rain changes from torrent to
drizzle to torrent. It blurs the azaleas,
and dogwoods float like watered silks
above the patio. The day is an endless
pause. The quiet speaks to itself.
Once, in England, I walked in
rain like this over cobbled roads to
a fallen cathedral where pilgrims crawled
through centuries of penance,
the paving stones worn under torn
and bleeding skin. In the open curtain of
shattered ruins, in the ashes of the last
great war, pitch-blackened timbers
shuddered and moaned under the weight
of the rain. Roofless walls trembled,
and memory, reinvented, fell into
shadows. In the dark chancel, where
the last offices were chanted, I walked
with the ghosts of hooded monks and
vanished Saxons, and then I knelt,
my knees pressed against hollowed stone,
as I worshipped the sky-vaulted silence.